Music News: How musicians are fighting white supremacy

by

The Current Music News for June 23, 2020 (MPR Video)

As the music world confronts institutional racism and white supremacy, individual artists are wondering what steps they can take to establish a new, more equitable norm. One of the most dramatic suggestions comes from Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. He's personally pledging to commit 5% of his writing royalties, moving forward, to organizations working toward racial justice.

What's more, he said in a statement, given that "the modern music industry is built almost entirely on Black art," there should be a step built into the music publishing process that allows artists to automatically divert a percentage of their revenue "to organizations that assist and support Black communities."

Fiona Apple is also pledging some revenue from her acclaimed new album to initiatives supporting Black and Indigenous communities. She's taking a different approach, though: she's pledged two years' worth of TV and movie sync income from two songs on her album Fetch the Bolt Cutters. She says that at a minimum, she'll donate $50,000 to each of two initiatives, "but I will be able to give a lot more If I can earn some of that Hollywood cash."

Her pledge is a reflection of the fact that music fans are increasingly aware of the money to be made by artists who sell the rights for their songs to be used in movies and TV. This came up when a song by Gary Glitter was used in the hit movie Joker, and audiences wondered just how much of their ticket money was going to a convicted pedophile. A statement like Fiona Apple's is a reminder that when they decide what songs to feature, TV and movie directors are making not just artistic choices but ethical ones as well.

https://fionaapplerocks.tumblr.com/post/620939433423880192/fiona-apple-is-going-to-donate-the-tv-and-movie

Meanwhile, artists are thinking about the signals they've been sending, perhaps unintentionally, with their band names and merch. One of those artists is Patterson Hood, co-founder of Drive-By Truckers. On NPR, Hood published a long essay called, "Now, About the Bad Name I Gave My Band."

He writes that when he heard about Lady Antebellum changing their name, it made him think about his own band name, which was partly inspired by the "crime sagas" that filled a lot of hip-hop when the band started up in 1996 in Atlanta. He says he now realizes — and to be clear, I'm paraphrasing from a long essay here — that it was not appropriate or helpful to reference the violence plaguing Black communities in the name of a white band that just set out to be "fun and rowdy."

He says he's not changing the band name yet, but he's open to suggestions. In the meantime, he's trying to reckon with his own past, and the nation's, in songs like "What It Means."

Last week I talked with Elizabeth Stokes and Jonathan Pearce of the New Zealand indie band the Beths. They're getting ready to release a new album called Jump Rope Gazers, and they talked about their conflicting feelings around releasing new music at a time when, as white artists, they feel like other voices need to be elevated.

We're going to leave you with a clip from a powerful new video from Minnesota artist Maria Isa, who had a personal connection to George Floyd: he worked at venues she frequented and, she wrote in a statement accompanying her song "Cómo Duele," often helped her to carry her Bomba Drum after her shows. It's a reminder of why we're having these conversations, and how urgent they are.

Maria Isa's new album Amor Universal is out today.


comments powered by Disqus